After I finished this book I kind of just sat there for a while. Stunned and reeling. To say that this book is disturbing would be an understatement.After I finished this book I kind of just sat there for a while. Stunned and reeling. To say that this book is disturbing would be an understatement. It is disturbing in a very obvious big way because of the subject matter but also in a very subtle and understated way because there is very little actual violence or gore on the pages.
A repressed, lonely, unstable young man, Frederick Clegg wins the lottery. Clegg has been fascinated and secretly "in love" with Miranda, a beautiful art student for quite some time. So when his aunt and cousin (who are his entire family) very conveniently depart for Australia to never return, he gradually starts putting a plan together to kidnap Miranda and keep her captive. It's a bit of a contrived set up but an easy one to swallow in the context of the book.
Clegg is a butterfly collector and classic sociopath, completely unconcerned for and unable to empathise with the feelings of others, even the object of his devotion, and with a very strong tendency to rationalise and blame others for his behaviour. Miranda is simply an object to be put on a pedestal.
"I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful."
Miranda's feelings and desires are as irrelevant to Clegg as those of a postage stamp to a philatelist. We are told of the preparations he makes to kidnap Miranda in a cold emotionless voice and as though most of them happened by accident without any real intent on his part.
"The van was the one really big luxury I gave myself. It had a special fitting in the back compartment, a camp bed you could let down and sleep in; I bought it to carry all my equipment for when I moved round the country, and also I thought if I got a van I wouldn’t always have to be taking Aunt Annie and Mabel around when they came back. I didn’t buy it for the reason I did use it for. The whole idea was sudden, like a stroke of genius almost."
"In one of the Sunday papers I saw an advert in capitals in a page of houses for sale. I wasn’t looking for them, this just seemed to catch my eye as I was turning the page."
"All this time I never thought it was serious. I know that must sound very strange, but it was so. I used to say, of course, I’ll never do it, this is only pretending."
Yes, I was tidying in the nude, tripped over a hoover and my penis just got stuck in the nozzle, honest.
Yet all the time the reader can see Clegg going through very thorough and meticulous preparations for what he is about to do, buying a van, a house, outfitting and securing the cellar, cutting himself off from all outside contact, trying to foresee every eventually and all of this in a remarkably detached and unfeeling way, except for some flickers of pride, a sense of achievement and satisfaction at his own work and cleverness.
Many readers appear to have felt a lot of sympathy for Clegg, yet I have to confess I never did. He does not appear able to see that what he is doing is morally objectionable and there are clearly some abandonment issues from his childhood (his father died when he was two and his mother left him to be brought up by a strict and emotionally vacuous aunt) but there is nothing particularly horrific lurking in his past, no particular trauma that might explain how he became what he is. Here's what happened but I never meant it to turn out the way it did, it's not my fault, there is nothing wrong with me is the leitmotif of Clegg's narration.
"I thought, I can't get to know her in the ordinary way, but if she's with me, she'll see my good points, she'll understand. There was always the idea she would understand. I only wanted to do the best for her, make her happy and love me a bit."
Yet this is interspersed with such obvious meaningless little lies and self-delusions that he almost reads as pathetic. Despicable as well as horrifying.
The middle portion of the book is narrated from Miranda's point of view in a form of a diary she secretly keeps. While this does cover the same time period as Clegg's narration so we effectively get two versions of the same event, I thought it was quite powerful and necessary in terms of showing Miranda as a person, with her own feelings, hopes desires and flaws.
This was a very unsettling and uncomfortable read but one that I think will stay with me for a long time. It painted a vivid and complex picture of the power dynamic between captive and captor and, though it feeds on that basic fear of evil things lurking in the dark and being powerless, unable to escape that evil, it never felt emotionally manipulative. ...more
This is a short story collection of nine fairy tales retold. These were certainly beautiful and gave a totally different perspective to some of the stThis is a short story collection of nine fairy tales retold. These were certainly beautiful and gave a totally different perspective to some of the stories while keeping very close to the original with others. They read more like poetry than anything else.
I loved him the way it feels when you get hot wax on the inside of your wrist and while it's burning, just as sudden, it's a cool thick skin. Like it tastes to eat sweet snow, above the daffodil bulbs - not that I've ever found it, but clean snow that melts to nothing on the heat of your tongue so that you aren't even sure if it was ever there. I loved him like spaniel joy at a scent in the grass - riveted, lost.
I'd sit around dreaming that the boys that I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me that I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelettes and undress me and make love to me all night with the pale trees whispering windsongs about a tortured, gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies.
She made him want to cry when he walked up the path through the ferns and doves and lilies and saw her covered with earth and dust and ash. Only her eyes shone out. Revealing, not reflecting. Windows. Her feet were bare. He wanted her to tell him the rest of the story. He felt bereft without it, without her. There were only these women with mirror eyes strutting across marble floors, tossing their manes, revealing their breasts, untouchable, only these tantalizing empty glass boxes full of dancing lights he could not hold, only these icy cubicles, parched yards, hard loneliness.
The problem was that with poetry, I have to feel it with my heart rather than my mind and, while I did think these were beautiful, I just didn't love them. I kept feeling like I wasn't really getting these stories and there is a bigger deeper more profound meaning to them that kept eluding me. A quick and interesting read but I doubt I will be coming back to them....more
Thinking is bad for you. The heroine of this novel, Rae Blaise or Sunshine, as she is better known, finds this out the hard way after she drives out tThinking is bad for you. The heroine of this novel, Rae Blaise or Sunshine, as she is better known, finds this out the hard way after she drives out to the lake to have a think and avoid arguing with her mum. Because while there, she is kidnapped by a group of vampires, dressed in blood red silk and chained in a room with another vampire, Constantine. But clearly, Sunshine is a bright girl (I am still unsure exactly how old she is supposed to be, early twenties, I'd guess) and learns her lesson quickly and pretty much stops thinking from then on. At least enough for her latent powers to reveal themselves and take over her logical processes.
I am doing this all wrong, aren't I? Because, actually, I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. And even the fact that listening to Sunshine is like talking to someone with a severe case of ADD because she keeps diverting and sidetracking until you lose all sense of what she was talking about to begin with and the fact that the book was like the worst kind of tease, sucking you in, turning you on and dumping you with barely a hint of a resolution, no answers to most of the questions and no sequel in sight wouldn't put me off.
I liked Sunshine. Despite her ADD and obsession with baking (I hate cooking with a passion). She felt real. She was sometimes snarky, sometimes frustrating, sometimes puzzling but always interesting and complex and believable as a character.
I've never read any McKinley before but I new fairy tale retellings were usually her thing but that this wasn't quite her usual thing, being a gritty and dark urban tale about vampires. Yet I am not so sure. This is a dark vampire tale but with a healthy dose of fairy (tale) dust sprinkled all over it, I think, and some sunshine. It is a Beauty and the Beast story, which Sunshine tells to Constantine during their confinement and which, I hear, McKinley is a teeny bit obsessed with but it is not really a romance (damn it!).
Yes, Constantine is definitely the Beast of this piece. He is ugly and alien and he smells. No sparklingly brooding underwear models here. No sighing over anybody's eyes and beautiful chests. Yet Sunshine, and I along with her, grows to love him despite herself and the "resolution" to their relationship at the end, while it is incredibly frustrating in its unclarity, is also incredibly sweet (I did tell you this was a fairy tale, right?).
But back to the unclarity (and the biggest fattest BUT of this book). Questions. Questions, questions everywhere. Where did Sunshine's father and the entire Blaise family disappear to? What are the "bad spots"? Why does Sunshine's mum avoid her all the time and why did she leave her father? What precipitated the Voodoo Wars? Has the presense of supernatural beasties always been the reality of this world or have they just crawled out of the woodwork at some point? What is the Goddess of Pain? What is Mel? And so on and so forth. Answers are not forthcoming.
You know that scene in the middle where naked Sunshine lands on equally naked Constantine but, while he initially appears into this, he soon comes to his senses and won't put out and Sunshine is all frustrated with engorged labia and parts to match. Well, I swear McKinley put this in just to illustrate graphically how she was going to leave her readers at the end of this book. Coitus interruptus, are you bloody kidding me? I need the other two books (at least) in this series, which Mckinley is not writing.
I was going to take a star off for that but then, I know for a fact that I am now going to go read every single other book that McKinley has ever written and come back to this one over and over looking for that something that I have possibly missed but really just to spend some time with Con and Sunshine again, even if they are not doing anything new and Sunshine is mainly blathering on about her cinnamon rolls as big as her head. And if that doesn't make a book five star worthy, I don't know what does. ...more